Leader of the opposition McKeeva Bush attempted to make public a confidential draft of the new constitution by tabling it at the Legislative Assembly on Friday, but was prevented from doing so by the Speaker of the House.
When his efforts were thwarted, Mr. Bush instead released the document to the media.
Mr. Bush used a debate into a motion on general regulations of the new Freedom of Information Law to seek to table the paper.
‘We have had a constitutional working draft brought back to the country and there have been many calls to the government from the opposition to release the document… I know that it is not for publication but I see no reason why anyone in the country that wants to have that information should not have it.”
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Minister Alden McLaughlin said the release of the working draft could put the constitutional modernisation negotiations with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London in jeopardy.
They accused Mr. Bush of seeking to make political gain in the run-up to the general election in May next year by releasing the paper.
Mr. McLaughlin said the FCO required that the document remain confidential and this had been discussed when the first round of negotiations took place.
He said the confidentiality of the document was “a condition imposed not by the government of the Cayman Islands, it is a
condition imposed by the FCO.”
He said the document was a product of the FCO and it was not up to the government or the opposition to make it public, and that future rounds of talks could be in jeopardy if conditions of the negotiations set down by the FCO were flouted.
But Mr. Bush insisted he had made it clear during the talks that he did not believe the draft, nor the talks themselves, should be held in secret.
Speaker of the House Edna Moyle on Friday ruled that as the document was confidential, it could not be laid on the table of the House.
Mr. Bush responded that he had made it clear at the meeting that he would not be bound by any confidentiality clause. ‘I see no reason why [the document] should not be released, it holds no great state secrets,” adding that since he was not allowed to make it public in the House, he would release it to the press.
Mr. McLaughlin said: “We are at a critical stage in these negotiations; if either side breaks the basic trust which has to be an implicit part of any negotiations and acts in bad faith in relation to those negotiations, the outcome of the negotiations is bound to be in question.
“I wish we could get to a point in this country that we could develop the sense of maturity to understand that the creation… of a constitutional document must be of paramount importance and must override the political agenda of all of
Mr. Tibbetts insisted the document was not a draft constitution. “We do not want people to get the situation perverted. This
is a working document.”
He said that the head of the UK delegation, Ian Hendry, had drawn up the document which captured the ‘thoughts and positions expressed during that first round of talks’, as well as the UK government’s early position on a number of issues.
“He said nothing is agreed until it is agreed,” Mr. Tibbetts told the House.
Mr. Bush had appealed at the outset of the talks in October for the negotiations to be made public.
Asked at the time of the first round of talks why they could not be held in public, Mr. Hendry replied: “If these discussions took place throughout in public I know, I don’t just think, I know that we would not reach a conclusion. This is a negotiation… and in a negotiation the key is forbearance and compromise and persuasion and a result, which is the acceptance of both sides – the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom.
‘And I know from bitter experience… that if negotiations are held in private they were more likely to get acceptance, forbearance and tolerance.’
A referendum on proposed changes to Cayman’s constitution is expected to take place 20 May.